Swimming, yoga, tennis — how to get the most out of your choice of exercise
Welcome to the third week of my Fit after Fifty series. We’ve had a great reaction to last week’s column and the key takeaway message was really that you have to work hard enough to get the results you are looking for and also you have to find a form of exercise that works for you, one that you enjoy and consider fun.
By finding a fun activity, you are far more likely to stick with it. To get the benefits and by working hard enough, you will continuously improve your fitness levels, which is so crucial as you age, reducing your risk of age-related health problems.
Last week and this week, we are looking at the most common forms of exercises that the over-50s might consider. Last week we explored the benefits of cycling, jogging and walking — this week, we’ll shine a spotlight on three more, giving you all the information you need to know to ensure you are doing it properly.
Swimming is fantastic for your health. Because the water provides support for the body, it’s what we call a non-weightbearing form of exercise.
That makes it a great choice for people suffering from arthritis, osteoporosis, back trouble and other joint issues, as there are so many different forms of exercise you can do in the water.
The important point to remember is you have to find the form of swimming that suits you best. For example, walking the pool is a great way to improve your leg and hip strength; front crawl and back crawl are great for your overall body; whereas the breast stroke can place unnecessary pressure on your lower back. So see what works best for you. And as always, if it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it.
The universal rule of working hard to get the benefits really applies in the pool. You should aim to get yourself slightly out of breath, but be able to still have a conversation.
By doing this, you are getting the aerobic benefits from the session, enabling the heart and lungs to improve.
Aqua-aerobics is another great form of water-based exercise, providing a resistance and cardiovascular workout in the pool with a qualified instructor.
It’s also a great way to socialise, especially in the dark winter months when being outdoors isn’t all that appealing.
One thing is for sure, as you age, your body will stiffen up, you will become tighter and be at an increased risk of muscle damage and muscle pain that can be easily prevented by a little stretching-based exercise. And this is especially true when it comes to back pain.
So it’s no surprise that yoga and Pilates have never been more popular. They basically challenge the body to stretch and progress through a sequence of exercises.
I myself do a private yoga class once a week and have found it really good for my flexibility and for my all-round mental health too.
The positive endorphin rush that comes with other forms of exercise comes from these too and they can be far more gentle on the body yet yield great benefits too.
My best advice is to look for a class that isn’t too big, has a teacher who is engaged in your technique and helps you to ensure you are doing it correctly as opposed to just focusing on themselves.
You should always feel safe and secure in a class and be corrected if you are doing something wrong. If you aren’t, then it’s time to find another class.
The number of my older clients that have taken up tennis in the past year has increased by 75pc and watching the benefits they have gained from it, I couldn’t not include it in this column. Tennis is great for your body, your bones, your mind and your social life. The social component is so important, it makes the exercise so much easier to do all year round. Any of the racket sports will be great for your body, but also your co-ordination too, especially if you are that little bit competitive.
Looking back over the forms of exercise we’ve put under the spotlight, it becomes clear that almost any form of exercise will benefit you in some way as you grow older.
And while there are lots of different routes to improving your fitness, what’s really important is that you find one you know you enjoy and will want to keep doing.
Then make sure you have been shown how to do it properly and never be afraid to ask for help.
Finally, just ensure you are working hard enough but not too hard, using your breathing rate to monitor this. This simple guide will ensure exercise works for you, at any age.
Next week: Just how often should you be exercising and for how long?
Karl Henry has the answers
Your flexible friend: Make sure your yoga instructor corrects your posture if you’re getting itwrong